Graveside services for Ms. Rena Inez Harmon Pierson, 89, formerly of Talladega will be 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 1, 2020, at Harmon Cemetery. Visitation for Ms. Pierson will be 3-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 25, 2020, at O. H. Pye, III Funeral Home in Detroit, Michigan. Visitation will be 3-7 p.m. on Friday, July 31, 2020, at Terry's Mortuary.
Rena Inez Harmon was born at sunset October 11, 1930 to Knox and Mollie Harmon in Mardisville, Alabama. Rena was the ninth of 10 children born into this union. Growing up in Mardisville on a large farm owned by her parents, Rena at an early age acquired a plethora of skills including sewing, fishing, canning and preserving and baking. She picked cotton, helped with the livestock, hunted small game for the table with her brothers, delighted in catching fish for family meals, from the Talladega Creek, and worked in the family orchard. She learned to read even before attending kindergarten, sitting on her beloved mother’s lap. Rena soon acquired what would become a lifelong passion for education, strongly influenced by the role models of her Mother and her Aunt Susie, who were both teachers. Rena nurtured an implacable spiritual foundation at Mount Moriah Baptist Church where she also joined with sister Henrietta and her nieces Ramona and Josephine to form a gospel singing group, The Harmon Four. In 1949, Rena graduated from Drewry High School, a private institution intended for students with aspirations to continue their education upon graduation. Her parents sacrificed to send her to the private school, and it paid off as she became the only one of ten siblings to graduate from high school and attend college, whereas her brothers and sisters pursued careers to earn a living in the post-depression era environment. After graduating from Alabama State University with a bachelor’s degree in Education, Rena married Manuel H. Pierson in 1955. The couple moved to South Haven, Michigan and out of that union Dudley, Donna, David and Daryl were born. A fearless pioneer, Rena was the first African-American teacher to teach in Van Buren County and received criticism but remained undaunted and dedicated to her passion to help young students. In 1969 she earned her Master’s degree from Wayne State University and recently returned for her 50th Anniversary celebration of her graduation. In 1962, the couple relocated to Detroit, Michigan where they would rear their children, purchase and manage rental properties operate a party store and participate in many educational and social endeavors. The couple joined the Cotillion Social Club and she with fellow teachers from Brady Elementary School formed “The Bridge Club” which was one of her ongoing recreational passions. In addition, she passionately enjoyed travel with the family across the US, took cruises, camping trips, and the like. During her tenure in Detroit she dedicated 30 years to elementary education, teaching for the Ecorse Public Schools, and at Brady Elementary School. Rena delighted to enrich the lives of her students and quietly sought opportunities to be a Good Samaritan, doling out what many would say was good old fashioned southern hospitality to friends and strangers. She endeavored to distribute books to visitors to her ongoing yard sale on Broadstreet Ave. With every purchase she would offer a free book. Some parents would explain to her that their children did not enjoy reading, but she would counter that “You have to read to them first!” After retirement, she continued to pass out books to children in her beloved Russell Woods neighborhood, where she served on the Russell Woods Neighborhood Association and led the beautification committee. Rena also bought several acres of land in Michigan rural country and built a house. It was here where she enjoyed entertaining family and friends. Rena was surely one of LeBron James’s biggest fans, and was the most competitive card and Chinese checker player. She was also an avid photographer and Jazz aficionado and practiced the lost art of writing notes and letters. But everyone who knew her also recognized that for Rena, family was paramount. She enjoyed her grandchildren and great grandchildren. A dynamic woman, a humble soul and a selfless servant, Rena was a Good Samaritan a genuine, giving and helpful friend to all. Rena is survived by her four children, Donna, Daryl (Shaleen), David and Dudley, a host of grandchildren, nine great grandchildren, and countless family and friends. She was preceded by parents Knox and Mollie; and siblings Christine, Jerry, Lessie, Sebron, Mattie, Annie, Willie, Henrietta, and Knox.
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